The War on DIY Firearms.

“Ghost Gun…” The terrifying term first popularized by a moron (and California State Senator) named Kevin de Leon back in January of 2014. But Los Angles is suing Polymer80 over their DIY firearms as DIY’s.. the terrible ‘Ghost Gun’ have been an increasing portion of the firearms recovered during investigations. The news story at the link states 40%, 700 guns total, were ‘Ghost Guns’ and says that 86% of those 700 had at least some parts from Polymer80. So this is all their fault!

The full quote that immortalized this stupid term…

de Leon, saying stupid things and winning stupid prizes.

“This is a ghost gun,” de Leon begins, holding an unloaded rifle in his hands. “This right here has the ability with a .30-caliber clip to disperse with 30 bullets within half a second. Thirty magazine clip in half a second.”

Those are certainly all words…

Senator de Leon was then mocked thoroughly for his utter and total ignorance of anything related to how a firearm operated. He was trying to get a bill passed that would mandate DIY firearm makers in California apply to the DOJ for a serial number for their home build before completing it. Which would be another wet blanket proposal that does nothing but irritate the law abiding, while the felons who ignore laws ignore that one also.

Federally, a serial number is required for commercial manufacturing. Technically anyone who is building a firearm to sell it, who also need the appropriate FFL, needs to serialize it. Off hand I believe the number is still 50 firearms in a calendar year built and/or sold requires the Federal Firearms License. Those firearms built for personal use do not require a serial number. Federal law and the ATF maintain this standard. Federal law additionally doesn’t recognize the building of a firearm if the firearm receiver is not more than 80% complete. An item either is or is not a firearm, ‘designed to become a firearm’ is not a legal category, which is how we got the 80% number. Regardless of what the item can be finished or built into an 80% receiver is not a firearm.

The receiver or frame itself, the part that does or would bear the serial number, is also the legal firearm (or not a firearm) and that part only is the regulated part as a firearm. Barrels, springs, slides, bolts, strikers, etc. are all not firearms, just the serialized or would be serialized part is/will be.

So let’s take a look at the CBS piece, and take it apart for a good cleaning. (As always, story in italics with my responses in between)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The city of Los Angeles is suing Polymer80, believed to be one of the largest sellers of “ghost gun” kits and parts.

The lawsuit was filed in partnership with Everytown Law, which called ghost guns – weapons that don’t have serial number and are therefore untraceable — the fastest-growing gun safety problem facing the country. The lawsuit seeks an injunction ordering Polymer80 to stop sale of its ghost gun kits.

They don’t sell a ghost gun kit. They sell firearm parts and a part that is not a firearm until it is finished by someone into a firearm, just like a raw injection mold or forged piece of aluminum isn’t a firearm. Whether the person who finishes it is legally allowed to finish it, or take possession in any way of a finished one, is ultimately their felony to risk if they aren’t. Just like possessing a serialized firearm or acquiring one outside an FFL/DoJ approved channels. Sorry guys, criminals commit crime by not following the rules. Making more rules for them not to follow around legal products for everyone else.. is just silly.

“Nobody who could buy a serialized gun and pass a background check would ever need a ghost gun,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement. “Yet we allege Polymer 80 has made it easy for anyone, including felons, to buy and build weapons that pose a major public safety threat.”

You clearly don’t understand the anti-authoritarian and contrarian streak within humanity, my good fellow. They might ‘need’ it for no better reason than that it makes you grumpy, Mr. Feuer. Stating they don’t ‘need’ it proves, in a sentence, how disconnected you are from your arms buying public. They are sick of the garbage the political elites keeps feeding them while saying they aren’t violating their Second Amendment rights, they just have no choice in the matter.

These also don’t pose a ‘major’ public safety threat, they pose the same threat as every other illegally obtained firearm. They happen to be the illegal flavor of the moment for 4 in 10 of your firearms related cases it appears, but what about the other 6? Do we have data to support that the removal of the Poly80’s would have significantly reduced the crimes committed? Or would another method have been easily attainable and used in place of the Poly80?

Also, I love the very targeted and purposeful use of this picture…

ghost gun polymer80 pistols on a table with AR-15 rifles
(credit: LA City Attorney’s Office via CBS LA)

It’s smaller in the desktop browser format on their site, and to their credit there are some Polymer80’s in the back it appears… behind all the AR-15’s in the foreground. Such a subtle way to imply that Polymer80’s aren’t just ‘Ghost Guns’ but ‘Assault Weapons’ too.

When they aren’t… it’s just a Glock handgun. Not a Glock brand Glock handgun, but functionally it matches the models 17, 19, 20, 21, etc. that are all still on the approved firearm list for the State of California.

Polymer80’s ghost gun kits and components are frequently sold online and can be purchased by people prohibited from legally owning guns due to their criminal history or mental health status, according to Feuer.]

Yep, and people with suspended licenses for drunk driving are still fully capable of buying booze and putting a car in gear. Also people buying things on the internet!? How dare they!

[Ghost guns are increasingly being recovered at Los Angeles-area crime scene investigations, and Feuer says more than 700 weapons recovered by the LAPD in 2020 were made up of Polymer80 parts.

Just as we can track the market preference prior to the Poly80 to cheap, available, concealable handguns in the criminal circles, the Poly80 fits all those critical facets too. So do, I’d wager, many or most of the other 60% of recovered firearms that are not Poly80 ‘Ghost Guns’. Many likely defaced, stolen or illegally transferred, and still fitting cheap, available, and concealable as priorities. The Poly80 just happens to have an obvious, but still illegal, exploit criminals have used.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the recent spike in Los Angeles crime may be due to the rise in ghost guns.

“‘may’ be due to the rise in ghost guns.


That’s what you’re going with!? In a year long span since a worldwide pandemic kicked off, a year of lockdowns, a year of riots and civil unrest, a year of unemployment and strained work opportunities due to government mandated methods to curb infections, a year where the cops admitted they wouldn’t come to help you (unless you ‘really needed it’ so it was probably too late) because they didn’t want their officers infected, and a year that saw record shattering legal gun purchases due to the extreme national strain? You think its the ‘Ghost Guns’ driving that crime wave?

(BTW, anyone notice COVID deaths have suddenly gotten really quiet in the news? Funny that… not even an attaboy for Joe that they’re going down, if they are…)

“These are the weapons that our officers are coming against. These are the weapons that are being used on other Angelenos. They are being used by individuals who have no right, or ability to otherwise have lawful possession of a firearm,” Moore said.

Nice of you to slip ‘lawful’ into the statement, Chief Moore, that way you can be ‘technically correct’ and all. Because ability, as in physical ability, they have all day, all night, and twice if they have both hands. We can debate about their right to own a firearm again if they have completed a term of sentence, but legal ability sums it up.

The complaint accuses Nevada-based Polymer80, Inc. of violating California law by aiding and abetting in the manufacture of handguns that that do not comply with safety specifications required under the state’s Unsafe Handgun Act, failing to comply with certification and serial number requirements, and unfairly competing with licensed gun dealers who because their parts do not require background checks.

I already pointed out earlier that these are Glocks in all but name, and those are on the list, because Glock still pays your sin tax for them to stay on that list. But I also know that isn’t how your list of atrocious arbitrary ‘safety’ works. I’ll just mention it for the audience that a functionally identical handgun is on the list so that ‘Unsafe’ point is moot.

According to Feuer, Polymer80 shipped approximately 9,400 items to California customers between January of 2019 and October of 2020 – including at least 200 “Buy Build Shoot” kits that contained the parts necessary for a fully functional, untraceable gun.

Untraceable? Hardly. Credit card records and shipping addresses are still things, are they not? Just because you cannot pull a 4473 form in a formal ‘trace’ doesn’t make these untraceable or leave no evidence.

Speaking of a 4473 trace, we act like that is some instant 10-digit grid to a firearm’s location and ownership (for those unfamiliar with what a “grid” is, it would provide a GPS location accurate to within 1 meter. Military GPS usually uses 8 or 10 digit grids because being accurate within 10 meters or 1 meter of a location is usually precise enough, especially for artillery) when all it does is give the last time the gun was transferred away from an FFL once you find the last FFL that dealt with that particular firearm. The listed transferee might still own it or they might not. Traces aren’t magic, they’re background data that must correlate with a great deal of other points to provide useful information, and their lack of inclusion isn’t going to prevent prosecution of someone who had a firearm illegally from being prosecuted because they had a firearm illegally.

Polymer80 does not conduct background checks on its website, but simply asks buyers on its website to check a box verifying they are eligible under state and federal laws to purchase, own and use the components they are buying, according to Feuer.

Polymer80 doesn’t make firearms, please acknowledge that legal reality. They do not have to conduct a background check for parts that are not firearms. Can the parts be made into a functioning firearm? Yes. That is the DIY point. But working within the given legal realities, this is how the law functions. Polymer80 receiver/frames are not firearms. No background check. The onus for being in compliance with the law, if/when the Polymer80 is made into a firearm is on the assembler/finisher. Just as it would be if they went to the hardware store and made a firearm from those items, or 3D printed components and assembled a firearm that way.

The lawsuit also claims Polymer80’s advertising misleads customers in suggesting the purchase and possession of the company’s kits do not “reach the necessary state of manufacture or completion to constitute a ‘firearm’ under federal law.

They don’t. They checked. That’s why they are ‘80%’.

However, Feuer alleges the ease and speed in which a Polymer80 kit can be assembled into an operable weapon does in fact meet that federal definition, in violation of the law.

That is his opinion, not fact, and it is probably based upon the ATF raid against Polymer80 which is alleging the ‘Buy Build Shoot’ kits themselves violated the definition, the bundled SKUs specifically.

That is a stretch and the ATF knows it. The relevant part, the Polymer80 frame/receiver, isn’t the item under scrutiny, it is the total kit. Which means if the components had been purchased separately, instead of bundled, it would fall outside the definition of a firearm once again. So now we are playing some mighty egregious semantic games and dressing it up like they are coming down hard and fast on the DIY guns in the name of stopping their abuse by criminals. In reality they are thinly attacking the 80% definition.

The legal case might still fall in the ATF’s favor, which would mean the ‘Buy Build Shoot’ goes away, and may even mean records of BBS buyers get handed to the ATF so they can track down the unintentionally illegally transferred firearms. The reality, as they well know, is that this is a genie that has long left the bottle and is sunning himself by the sea-shore. Even a hard judgment against Polymer80 just means a new ’80’ will be built in its place, right at whatever the new line is and until they complain enough and arbitrarily move that line again.

The only other thing they can do is kick the hornets nest and have Congress move to ban DIY firearms, which won’t stop them, just make them illegal for no appreciable gain while burning a lot of the very little political capital they have. That with the nation still in hard times, lockdowns, and economic stress.

terrible plan really ghost gun bans

But as a piece of agitprop to imply that Polymer80 type firearms are the enemy, that they are illegal when they are not, that they are AR-15’s when they are not, and that they are the source of crime in Los Angeles… not a bad attempt, I guess.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.